From beams and ducts, to HVAC systems, your basement is home to a lot of unsightly, but very necessary, items. However, the good news is that if you have an unfinished basement, it’s also a raw space to design what you want. But whether your finished basement will be a kids’ playroom, a guest bedroom for your in-laws or even your own sanctuary (man cave, anyone?), it pays to plan ahead and have a viable design — especially if you’re trying to add real value to your home.
Scott Stephens, owner of DesignYourBasement.com, has plenty of great basement finishing ideas. “Always start with a plan,” he advises. His company works with homeowners to create virtual blueprints of their basement. This not only helps them to imagine the space, but shows them exactly how the finished space will look. “A high percentage of basement remodels actually hurt the sale of the home, or people only recoup half of what they spent,” says Stephens, who has been in the basement design business for more than 30 years. Too often, homeowners make mistakes such as putting drywall around the ductwork or creating cramped spaces that don’t resemble what the rest of the home feels like.
Based on trends that Stephens is seeing, and some of his company’s most successful remodeling projects (and happiest clients), here are seven basement finishing ideas:
1. Hide Items
“The trick is to hide the existing things you can’t move,” says Stephens. That could mean utility closets, sump pumps or mechanical spaces. One of his favorite ways to hide a utilitarian item is with a bookcase door. It looks and functions like a bookcase, but easily swings open like a door.
2. Create Illusions With the Ceiling
Part of creating a good basement design is simply tricking the eye. For example, it’s very common for basements to feature low ductwork. “Homeowners think there’s nothing they can do about this,” says Stephens. With a little creativity, that’s simply not true. Create a shoulder that drops down from the ceiling and frame the ducts. Add molding and lighting that highlights the ceiling. This will give the appearance that the space is taller, and it will help make the space feel less cramped.
3. Open up the Stairs
Simply taking down the wall on one or both sides of the stairs can dramatically open up your basement. This renovation makes the basement a space you want to walk into, says Stephens. Whether you’re planning on creating an entertainment space or a room dedicated to a hobby, you want your basement to feel as open and inviting as possible.
4. Use the Space Under the Stairs
When finishing your basement, you can make the most of the space under your staircase. A fun way to transform this space is to turn it into a reading nook. Make the space comfy and cozy, and add a custom bookshelf on one wall. If you have children, you can also put a kid-friendly twist on this idea, and fill the space with their favorite toys and books. Your children will love spending time in this fort-like space.
5. Create a Spa
Steam showers are currently very trendy when it comes to bathroom designs. They can create a spa experience in any bathroom — even a basement bathroom. “It’s a lot less expensive to add a steam shower to a brand-new basement bathroom than to retrofit your existing upstairs bathroom with one,” says Stephens. He did it in his own home, and it’s a big hit with his family.
6. Make It a Game Room
Classic family games are making a comeback, so why not turn your basement into a game room? Stephens says that shuffleboard is a popular addition to basements. You could also add a ping-pong table, a pinball machine or a pool table. If you don’t want to dedicate the whole space to games, frame out a dedicated area with the aforementioned ceiling illusion trick.
7. Add a Home Gym
Basements are ideal for home gyms. Make sure to add good lighting — you won’t feel as motivated in the dark — and consider your flooring carefully (especially if you’re merely adding carpet over concrete as working out on unforgiving surfaces can add impact stress to your body). “Work out, cool down, and then hop in your steam shower — that’s a basement!” says Stephen.
When it comes to finishing your basement, the ideas are endless. Start with these tips, and let your creativity flow. You’ll soon have a space that you, your family and your guests can enjoy for years to come. For more remodeling tips and tricks, head to Owners.com.
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